Liner notes for "The Complete Recordings of the Stan Getz Quintet with Jimmy Raney" Mosaic Records, written February 1990.
Stanley Getz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 2, 1927. He grew up in the Bronx, New York, where his father worked as a printer. His first musical interest was a harmonica that he acquired at the age of twelve. He involuntarily moved to the string bass in junior high school, when the band conductor, who was also the physical education instructor, commandeered Stan during an exercise period.
"Hey, you. Come here. I'm going to teach you how to play the bass." He took Stan to the music room, showed him how to hold the bass and where to put his fingers, gave him the bass part to the Minuet from the E-flat Symphony by Mozart, and Stan played it in a school concert two weeks later. Six months of playing the bass convinced Stan that he would rather play a melody instrument. His father went without lunches to save the $35.00 needed to buy him a used alto saxophone.
During the one year that Getz attended James Monroe High School, his friend Seymour Lushinsky, bassoonist in the high school band, talked him into learning the bassoon so he could fill the vacant second chair. Stan spent the summer before he started at James Monroe learning to play a bassoon that belonged to the school. He progressed so rapidly on the instrument that the following year he was chosen for the All-City High School Orchestra, which was made up of the best high school musicians in New York City. The members of this orchestra were given free lessons by musicians that played with the New York Philharmonic. Stan was given bassoon lessons by the great Simon Kovar.
Stan might have had a career as a bassoonist. The conductor at James Monroe offered to get him a scholarship at Juilliard when he finished high school. But he had already heard the siren song of jazz. He bought a tenor saxophone, found a teacher, and in January of 1943 joined New York's Local 802, adding two years to his age on the application. His first professional job, at fifteen, was with the Dick Rogers band at Roseland Ballroom. It ended abruptly when the truant officer found him.
One fateful day Stan attended a rehearsal of Jack Teagarden's band with Bill Shiner, a member of Teagarden's sax section who was studying with Stan's saxophone teacher.
"They were looking for a tenor player, so Bill pointed to me. I sat in on somebody's horn, and Jack said, `Okay, Gate, seventy bucks a week. Get your tux, dress shirt and toothbrush. We're leaving for Boston tomorrow morning.'"
If Stan's mother had not been visiting relatives in Philadelphia, the fifteen year old Getz would never have been allowed to leave high school to take the job. His father let him go.
"By the time my mother got home," said Stan, "I was half way across the country in Saint Louis, so she couldn't retrieve me. That was it."
The long arm of New York State law, which required children to stay in school until they were sixteen, reached out for Stan, however. The truant officer caught up with him at the Chase Hotel in Saint Louis, and Jack Teagarden had to sign guardianship papers in order to keep his underage saxophone player. "He adopted me," said Stan, "and he taught me a lot, especially about bending my right elbow."
Remembering those days, Stan told me, "I had an entirely different sound then. I was playing like Vido Musso. I didn't really start blowing easy with no vibrato until I met Herbie Steward in California." But nine months with the Teagarden band convinced Stan that he had found his calling in jazz.
Deciding to settle in Los Angeles, he took a job in a haberdashery while waiting out the transfer of his union membership from New York City to the Los Angeles local, and then he joined Bob Chester's band at the Trianon Ballroom. After a few other local jobs he was hired to replace Art Pepper in the Stan Kenton band in early 1944.
His first recording was made with Teagarden, on a date for Armed Forces Radio. He is listed as playing alto and baritone. He made many recordings with Kenton, mostly for Armed Forces Radio, but he was given no solos. Some time during the year that he stayed on the Kenton band he first heard Lester Young. "That's the reason I left the band," he said. I went up to Stan in a restaurant after a job and said, `What do you think of Lester Young's improvising?' And he said, `Too simple.' Can you imagine that? So I gave my notice."
After leaving Kenton, Getz spent a short time with Jimmy Dorsey's band. Then he led his own trio at the Swing Club in Hollywood before returning to New York to join the Benny Goodman band. Stan's first recorded solo was with Goodman, a few bars on Give Me The Simple Life after Liza Morrow's vocal chorus.
Getz continued to record with Goodman, and also made a small group session on the Savoy label with one of Benny's trombonists, Kai Winding. Goodman fired Stan in 1946 while the band was at the Paramount Theater in New York. He worked for a week with Buddy Morrow at Roseland, and then his fiancee Beverly Stewart, sister of Gene Krupa's vocalist Buddy Stewart, got him a job with Randy Brooks, with whose band she was singing. Stan and Beverly were married.
When Brooks's tour ended, Stan worked with Herbie Fields at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood, New Jersey, before making his first records as a leader for Savoy, some of which were released under the name of "The Bebop Boys" and some as "The Stan Getz Quartet." The date featured Stan with Charlie Parker's then current rhythm section: Hank Jones on piano, Curley Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums.
Getz returned to the West Coast in early 1947 where, among a variety of other jobs, he worked in a band led by Les Brown's ex-vocalist Butch Stone. There he met Herbie Steward in whom he discovered a kindred soul. Steward encouraged Getz to lighten his tone, aiming more toward the quality they both admired in Lester Young's sound.
Getz and Steward left the Stone band to join Zoot Sims and Jimmy Giuffre in the sax section of a rehearsal band for which Gene Roland was writing arrangements. It featured the four tenor sound that was later incorporated into Woody Herman's Second Herd. The band found work under the leadership of Tommy DeCarlo, who had the job at Pete Pontrelli's Spanish Ballroom in Los Angeles. Stan's wife Beverly became the vocalist. The band interspersed Roland's originals among DeCarlo's book of stock arrangements, some of Mexican songs. When necessary, Getz transposed third alto parts for tenor, playing lightly in his upper register. The distinctive tone he developed eventually became known as the "Long Island Sound," after a record he made with that title. This also became a common appellation for Stan, later shortened to "The Sound."
Woody Herman had disbanded for a year. When he decided in September 1947 to reorganize his band, he wanted to use the saxophone sound he had heard at Pontrelli's. He hired Getz, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward, replacing Jimmy Giuffre with baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff. For some reason he didn't hire Gene Roland to write for the band, using some of Giuffre's charts instead, including one titled "Four Brothers." (A month later, Woody replaced Steward with Al Cohn.) Thus was born the famous Four Brothers saxophone section of Woody's Second Herd. Later, when Ralph Burns was added to the band and wrote Early Autumn, the stage was set for Stan Getz to become a major tenor saxophone star.
The 1948 recording of Early Autumn wasn't released until after Getz had left Woody's band and settled in New York in the Spring of 1949. The popularity of the record created a demand which enabled Stan to escape the latin and parade bands that had been keeping the wolf from his door. He formed his own group for club appearances and recordings. Initially working with a quartet, he soon added Jimmy Raney to the group, and one of the great collaborations of modern jazz was born. "We really had something special together," said Stan.
Getz's second big hit came as a result of his decision to accept a job on staff at NBC in New York while still working jazz clubs with his quintet. Assigned to the Kate Smith show, he there met guitarist Johnny Smith, who used Stan on a date for Roost Records. Their recording of Moonlight in Vermont became one of the two most popular jazz records in 1952, according to a Down Beat poll.
Getz now found himself in an enviable position. As long as he played "Moonlight in Vermont" once a night on his club appearances, he was free to play whatever else he chose. His audience was attracted to his lyricism and purity of sound, and seemed to require nothing further of him by way of commercial appeal. Stan played original tunes by Jimmy Raney, Gigi Gryce, Horace Silver, Johnny Mandel, Frank Rosolino and others, as well as his favorite standards. He gave solo space to all the members of his quintet, but the high points were the tenor and guitar solos and the blend achieved between those two instruments on double-solo and ensemble choruses. Jazz fans flocked to wherever the group was playing, and club owners and promoters were happy to arrange re-bookings.
It was at this juncture that I had the good fortune to join Stan's quintet. I had been rehearsing and occasionally working with the Teddy Charles trio. Getz had gone to California by himself in September, 1952, to work at the Tiffany Club in Los Angeles, so when Teddy's guitarist, Don Roberts, left to join Benny Goodman, Jimmy Raney was available for Teddy's next job at the Iroquois Hotel on 46th Street in Manhattan. We closed at the Iroquois just as Stan returned to New York. He called Jimmy for a week at the Hi-Hat in Boston in October, and told him to find a bass player. Jimmy asked if I wanted to do it and I said, "Oh, yes!" I had only been playing the bass for two years, but if Jimmy thought I could handle the job, I wasn't going to argue with him. We took the train to Boston together.
At the Hi-Hat I met the rest of the band. Roy Haynes, living in Boston at the time, was the drummer, and Jerry Kaminsky, a native of Pittsburgh, was the pianist. We had no chance to rehearse before the opening. I met Stan and Jerry at the hotel and Roy at the Hi-Hat, and we just set up and played. I was very impressed by the blend that Stan and Jimmy achieved. They sounded like a single instrument when they played in unison.
The next afternoon Jimmy taught me some chords and original tunes. By the end of the week I was comfortable enough with the group that Stan asked me to stay for the next job. Roy Haynes wasn't ready to leave Boston and Jerry Kaminsky had a previous commitment, so Stan hired Frank Isola on drums and Duke Jordan on piano. We worked together steadily for several months in clubs around the Northeast, and appeared at Carnegie Hall on November 14, 1952 in a concert with Duke Ellington's Orchestra, Charlie Parker with Strings, the Ahmad Jamal Trio, and guest soloists Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday. In December 1952 we made Stan's last recordings for Teddy Reig's Roost label and his first for Norman Granz.
Raney's tenure with Getz's quintet ended while I was a member of the group, during the record date for Granz that became the first half of the 10" Clef LP titled "Stan Getz Plays." Jimmy and Stan had a disagreement at the record date, and on a break Jimmy asked Stan to step into the men's room, where he gave his notice. They returned to the studio and finished the date without anyone else knowing he had quit the band. Jimmy went to work at the Blue Angel, a New York supper club, with pianist Jimmy Lyon, whose beautiful sense of harmony and knowledge of the great songs attracted Raney strongly.
Stan continued to work with a quartet, using me, Duke Jordan and Kenny (Klook) Clarke, who became a surprise replacement for Frank Isola. We had come back to New York in January, 1953, for a week off after a week in Boston. On that Monday night, Stan called and said he had filled in the open week at Birdland. When I got to work on Tuesday I found Kenny Clarke setting up his drums. I didn't know what had happened to Frank, but assumed he had already booked another gig. Kenny played beautifully, and everything seemed rosy.
Tuesdays at Birdland included a live radio broadcast of an early set to help publicize the attraction of the week. During the second set that night Frank Isola walked in and sat listening beside the bandstand. When we finished playing, I went down to say hello and asked what had happened. "I don't know," he said. "I turned on the radio and discovered I was fired!"
I was with Klook and Duke in the rhythm section for a few more weeks before they also left the group. Then Stan reorganized around the sound of Bob Brookmeyer's trombone, with Johnny Mandel filling in for the first two weeks while Bob worked out his notice with the Ray Anthony band. I worked and recorded with the Brookmeyer edition of Stan's quintet for a short time (with Johnny Williams on piano and Alan Levitt on drums) before Stan replaced me with Teddy Kotick. I then took the job Teddy had vacated, with Claude Thornhill's orchestra.
The last recorded chapter of Stan's fruitful association with Jimmy Raney was a date for Prestige in 1953 under Jimmy's name, with Getz using the pseudonym "Sven Coolson" because of his contractual obligations to Norman Granz. Though Stan and Jimmy worked together again for a short period in 1962 and did a week of college concerts together in 1986, they made no more recordings.
Stan Getz's career has had many ups and downs. After illness forced him into semi-retirement during the mid 1950s, he moved to Denmark where he lived and worked for several years. He returned to the United States in 1961 and helped initiate the fusion of jazz and bossa-nova, which carried him back to an even greater popularity than he had enjoyed with "Moonlight in Vermont." Over the years he consistently put together musical groups of superior quality and made many fine recordings. One of our major jazz soloists, he now makes his home in Malibu, California. Although recent health problems have severely limited his schedule, he continues to appear at concerts and jazz festivals.
[Stan Getz died in Malibu, California, in June 1991.]
James Elbert Raney was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 20, 1927. His father was a newspaperman. His mother played the guitar, and showed him the basic chords on it when he was ten years old. In elementary school he began group guitar lessons with A. J. Giancola and continued private study with him. When he was thirteen Raney began to study with Hayden Causey, who introduced him to the recordings of Charlie Christian. "When I heard Solo Flight I almost fainted," said Jimmy.
"Hayden taught me by writing things out. I'd memorize them. The system works sort of by osmosis and seems to be a good catalyst to get you playing your own things." Raney remained under Causey's tutelage for two years and then struck out on his own, playing in Louisville nightclubs and in a band at the clubhouse of the Churchill Downs racetrack.
In 1944 Causey, who was leaving the Jerry Wald band, recommended Raney as his replacement. Jimmy joined Wald at the Hotel New Yorker in Manhattan. Wald's pianist, Al Haig, introduced Jimmy to the modern jazz being played on 52nd Street and in Harlem, where Jimmy heard Art Tatum, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was impressed by Chuck Wayne's modern approach to guitar playing. Raney and Haig became close friends, frequently practicing together. "Al showed me a lot of elegant chord substitutions on the standard tunes," Jimmy said. When the job with Wald ended, Jim took a large stack of records home to Louisville where he spent the winter assimilating what he had heard in New York.
Louisville was not providing Raney with the musical stimulation he had experienced in New York, but he could find no way to finance a return trip. Chicago provided an alternative. His uncle and grandmother shared an apartment there. Jim moved in with them in June, 1945, found jobs with pianist-vibist Max Miller and pianist Lou Levy, and became part of the jam session world of modern Chicago jazz, where he met Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz, and first met Stan Getz when he passed through Chicago with Benny Goodman.
Tiny Kahn played Chicago with Georgie Auld's sextet and heard Raney at an after-hours session. Tiny's recommendation to Woody Herman coupled with Getz's enthusiastic endorsement brought Jimmy an offer in early 1948 to join Woody's Second Herd, to replace guitarist Herb Sargent. Al Cohn was hired around the same time, replacing Herbie Steward. Traveling with Woody, Raney developed friendships with Cohn, Zoot Sims and Getz, the saxophonist with whom he was later to form an important musical alliance.
While Woody's band was in New York, Jimmy made his first records with a quintet led by Al Haig that included Getz, bassist Clyde Lombardi and drummer Charlie Perry, for Bob Shad's Sittin' In label. By the time the records were released, Getz's solo on the Woody Herman recording of Ralph Burns's Early Autumn had made him famous, so Shad released the records under the name of "The Stan Getz Quintet," much to Haig's dismay.
Raney found himself limited by the role allotted him on Herman's band, playing mostly rhythm guitar. "It was a great band," he said, "but I wasn't too happy on the road or with a big band." He left after eight months and stayed in New York where he worked occasionally with groups led by Al Haig, Buddy DeFranco and Terry Gibbs. He also made some recordings, and played a few jobs with the Artie Shaw orchestra.
In 1950, Stan Getz, who had been leading his own quartet, added Raney to his group for a job at Bop City in New York. Jimmy continued to work with Stan for the next two years. His original concept of melodic lines and tasteful use of modern harmony gave Getz the foundation he needed to further refine and develop his own playing. The music they created together during this period made a great impression on the jazz world. Their recordings together are an excellent representation of the high level at which these two gifted artists functioned night after night in performance. These records established Raney as a major contemporary jazz guitarist. He won the Down Beat International Jazz Critics' Poll in 1954 and 1955.
After leaving Getz, Raney worked with Jimmy Lyon at the Blue Angel for several years, taking time off for a long tour with Red Norvo and Red Mitchell in 1953. Raney left Lyon in 1959 to become part of Don Elliot's onstage quintet in the Broadway show The Thurber Carnival. During the out of town opening of the show in James Thurber's home town, Columbus, Ohio, Raney and Thurber struck up a strong friendship. "He had always been a great hero of mine," said Raney. "Though he was blind, he had total recall. I'd bring him drinks, and he'd start talking about his life. He remembered everything. I was hearing Thurber stories that had never been written."
Jimmy made a number of records, under his own name and with other jazzmen, during the 1950s. He also moved reluctantly into the commercial music world when it became difficult for him to earn a living playing jazz without traveling. He told writer Ira Gitler, "To make jazz your life's work is difficult. You can keep it as a sideline and not expect to make money at it, but you lose touch that way." To keep his focus on music Jimmy studied composition with Hall Overton and participated in the jam sessions that took place in Overton's loft in New York's wholesale flower district. Jimmy also spent a number of years studying the cello.
"I tried a couple of Broadway shows after The Thurber Carnival," said Jimmy, "but I didn't enjoy the experience. The Thurber thing was special. The rest of it wasn't too musical."
Jimmy spent a year in the orchestra pit of a Broadway show called High Spirits, and found himself getting farther away from jazz. In ensuing years alcoholism came close to ending his career, but he fought his way back to stability and resumed playing jazz at his former high artistic level. Having returned to Louisville in 1968, he revisited New York in 1972 to play in jazz clubs and in 1974 gave a recital at Carnegie Hall with Al Haig. He toured internationally with Haig and Doug Raney, his guitarist son. Jim and Doug also made some well-received duo recordings.
Jim's musical activities in recent years have been limited by the slow onset of Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear which causes tone deafness. Jimmy knew he had a problem in one ear since 1964, but didn't realize how serious it was until it was diagnosed many years later. When it progressed to his other ear, he found it difficult to continue playing in groups.
"I can play solo," he told me. "I don't really hear what I'm playing, but the brain seems to make some sort of adjustment, and I imagine what it would sound like if I could hear it.
"It comes and goes. When I have a good day, I can distinguish pitches again. I get out all my Beethoven and Mozart and Charlie Parker records and listen to them as much as I can. When people send me their records, I have to wait for weeks sometimes until I have a good day and can hear them.
"Unless I'm having a good day, I can't teach too well when I can't hear what the students are playing. Of course, I can still write. I always did that with just a pencil."
Jimmy Raney is now considered the old master by many young guitarists. "I've heard some very good young players," he said. "I have a record now that someone sent of a young player who is compared to me. Of course, when anybody plays bebop guitar they're compared to me. But we all went to the same well...Charlie Parker."
[Jimmy Raney died in Louisville, Kentucky in May 1995]